Where is the safest seat to install a car seat in a car? When can I switch my child from rear facing to forward facing? Is the belt tight enough on my child? Is the car seat secure enough in my car?…there are so many things to consider when it comes to installing a car seat. We all want to keep our children safe, but how do we know if we’ve installed the car seat properly or if our child is secured in it properly? I’ve talked with two car seat technicians, plus some of the experts at Britax, to learn all the best tips and tricks for checking to make sure your child is safe in the car seat.
But first, I wanted to share a little bit about our car seat. We got the Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible car seat a little over a month ago, and before we even had a chance to install it in my car, Hazel was sitting in it, and loving it! So it sat in the middle of our living room for about a week, and Hazel would use it as her lounge chair. I guess that shows just how comfortable it is. Haha! Obviously Hazel likes it because it’s comfortable, but I like it because of it’s safety features. It keeps your child protected from all angles. It has a patented SafeCell Impact Protection® system which includes a reinforced steel bar, V-shaped top tether with impact-absorbing stitches, and an impact-absorbing base. There is a deep foam-lined shell that also provides side impact protection. There are also some features that provide ease and convenience for me. Like the cushion at the seat belt buckle that helps to prevent me from pinching the skin on Hazel’s leg when I buckle her in, and the adjustable harness with 14 positions so that it can easily grow with Hazel as she grows, from birth up to 65 pounds. (The Britax Marathon Clicktight Convirtible carseat is designed for rear-facing babies 5 – 40 pounds and forward-facing growing toddlers up to 65 pounds, making it a great carseat that can grow with your child). If you’re looking for a convertible car seat for your child, I highly recommend this one!
Now on to some safety tips…
- Always check the size and weight requirements of a car seat to make sure you’re purchasing the right one for your child.
- Keep your child rear facing for as long as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants and toddlers ride in a Rear-Facing Car Seat until they are 2 years old or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer. It is strongly recommended that children ride rear facing until they reach the highest weight or height specified.
- Check your states car seat laws. For example, in California, the law says your child must ride rear facing until the age of 2 years. Therefore, if your child outgrows his/her car seat before the age of two, you’ll need to get a bigger car seat that allows your child to stay rear facing. (Note: If your child is over the age of 2 and still meets the car seat height and weight requirements for rear facing, it is best to keep them rear facing.)
- Never place a car seat in a seating location that has an active front air bag.
- Check your owners manual for the best seating location for a car seat in your car. Although crash statistics show that the safest place for your child in any vehicle is in the back seat in the middle, some vehicles have specific requirements for where you can install a car seat, and some vehicles aren’t designed for a car seat in the middle back, so always double check your owners manual.
- Check the car seat user guide for proper installation instructions.
- If you install your child’s car seat using the LATCH system, be sure to check both the car seat user guide and your vehicle owner’s manual for the weight limits.
- Use either the seat belt or the LATCH system to install your car seat, but not both.
- The car seat should not move side-to-side or back-and-forth more than one inch in either direction.
- When your child is rear-facing, the shoulder harness strap should be at or below the child’s shoulder.
- When your child is forward-facing, the shoulder harness strap should be at or above the child’s shoulder.
- The chest harness strap should be at the level of your child’s armpits.
- To make sure your child is securely strapped into the car seat, pinch the harness straps at your child’s shoulders. If you can pinch any excess strap, the harness is too loose. Use the front strap to tighten it until you can’t pinch any excess strap. If you child cries because it’s too tight, a good rule of thumb is “you shouldn’t be able to pinch more than an inch”.
- If your car seat is past it’s expiration date (car seats have an expiration date because the sun and heat can cause the materials in a car seat to degrade over time) or has been involved in a crash, it’s time to get a new car seat.
- Attend a car seat check event to have the professionals check that your car seat is installed correctly. Visit https://www.safekids.org/ to find an event near you, or check with your county’s public health department or a Highway Patrol Officer.